Sweeping plan on operation of unions

By Christina Kopsini

The legal framework dictating how labor unions operate is set to undergo a major overhaul following recommendations by Greece’s creditors, though the Labor Ministry has said that it will seek the consent of the General Confederation of Greek Labor on the larger issues.

One of the main issues that the new law aims to address is the amount of leave granted to civil servants to participate in union activities. This privilege has been widely abused by union leaders handing out thousands of working hours and days to workers of their selection as they wished. In many cases it has meant that a civil servant would get as many as 20 days leave a month, allowing him or her to pursue a second job.

Another measure that is being considered is making strikes illegal unless they have been approved by at least 50 percent of each union’s registered members. Employers will also regain the right to stage lockouts, which they lost in 1982 even though it applies in many other countries in Europe.

Union funding is another area that will be subject to particular scrutiny, as the larger unions in Greece (with the exception of that for bank employees, OTOE) are mostly funded by the state rather than their members.